There are few players on the Buccaneers’ 2011 roster that one could say are hurt more by the current lockout than fullback Erik Lorig. No other player on the Tampa Bay roster was entering the NFL as a defensive end a year ago and now lining up primarily in the offensive backfield as a fullback. The lockout of NFL players from team training facilities prevents Lorig from getting some much needed practice time at his new position.

However, the Stanford product has attacked the offseason and is not allowing the lockout to prevent him from improving in 2011. Lorig switched positions twice during the 2010 season before settling in at fullback after the 2010 season started, and that is where he plans on remaining.

“I’m an H-back, fullback-slash-tight end and those are my duties. That’s what I’m focused on this offseason,” said Lorig. “I’m happy. I love the position. I love getting better at it. I love it.”

Lorig was drafted as a defensive end in the seventh round last April, and played there for all of training camp and into September. Lorig was waived on September 14 and signed to the Bucs’ practice squad on September 15. After the team’s bye week in Week 4, Lorig switched to the offensive side of the ball where he was cross-trained at tight end and fullback. Lorig played tight end in high school and at the beginning of his collegiate career at Stanford, but playing fullback was a brand new endeavor for him. This offseason, Lorig has a few points of emphasis that he wants to make improve on for next season.

“There are two things I’m focused on a lot. One is at the point of attack as a fullback,” Lorig said. “When I’m coming to open a hole against a linebacker, I’m learning you are approaching the point of attack as fast as you can, but in a controlled way so when you get to the point of attack you can get your shoulders down underneath the linebacker. That is definitely one of the things I’ve been working on with the [blocking] sleds. I felt that was one area I needed to improve on for coming back next year.

“In terms of route-running and receiving, I’m just getting comfortable again, which is understanding how you fit into for a pass progression for a quarterback. As a fullback or a tight end you’re running a cross or a flat. I’ve been asking a lot of questions of Jim Dray, who is my best friend and plays with the Cardinals. I’ve been working out with him and asking a lot of questions. He’s a good tight end that has lot of knowledge. So I’m doing lots of film work and field work right now.”

Lorig did such a good job of picking up the offense and the fullback position that Tampa Bay cut a more experienced backup fullback in Chris Pressley during the middle of the 2010 season. In order to hold onto a roster spot Lorig is attacking the weight room and his film study at his alma mater.

“I’m back up here at Stanford. I’ve actually been training with my college coach since really the third week in January. I started my training after taking a few weeks off,” said Lorig. “I’m in the weight room four times a week. I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training in addition to the weight training. I’m doing yoga three times a week. I’m doing basketball three times a week and focused on being a cross-fit athlete. The position requires that you can do a lot. Lining up in the backfield, at tight end, all the special teams, you got to be able to do anything and do it well. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of the college coaches are still around. I’m watching film on the computer. I’ve been able to focus in on the tape and watch other fullbacks and trying to keep up and catch up on the curve. 

“We have good NFL group here right now. We’re training with Shannon Turley, the strength and conditioning coach. He’s one of the best college strength coaches in America. I think that is reflective in the Stanford team from this past year. There are six of us from the NFL training with him.”

Lorig made his NFL debut in Cincinnati on October 10th and started his first game against the Carolina Panthers on November 14. Lorig was a core special teams player in his game action. After an injury to starting fullback Earnest Graham against Seattle, Lorig finished the game at fullback with running back LeGarrette Blount running for a season-high 164 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown.

Blount ran for 91 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown in Lorig’s first start against Carolina. With Graham out, the Bucs started Lorig in Week 17 against New Orleans and Lorig caught his first NFL pass for a gain of 10 yards. Blount ran for 66 yards on 19 carries in that game.

After switching positions in-season, Lorig had to start the process of changing his body from a bigger and bulkier defensive end to that of a smaller, more athletic fullback. This offseason, Lorig said he has made a lot of progress in the past couple of months.

“It is going really well. One focus is re-shaping my body,” said Lorig. “When I got to Tampa I was weighing about 280, now I’m about in the 260s and really leaned down. I’m at eight percent body fat. I’ve never felt this quick and strong before. I feel really put together right now. I think a lot of it is due to the cross-training that I’ve done. With basketball, I’ve played it my whole life, but I play a few times a week now. The yoga in terms of core strength and flexibility is a really good exercise that I think is good for any football player. I believe in my weight room coach and he’s done a lot of good stuff. The transformation is definitely going well. I started doing it early on in the season, but it is really coming together now.”

Typically seventh-round picks like Lorig require some developmental time at the NFL level if they end up making an impact. By making the team and having an impact as a rookie, the 253rd overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft already had beaten the odds. Only 10 percent of seventh-round picks actually make it into the NFL. Lorig’s journey from late-round pick to the starting lineup was in line with fellow rookie and seventh-rounder, Cody Grimm, and much of the surprising Buccaneers when they won 10 games in the 2010 season.

Most seventh-round picks are quickly forced to move ahead in careers outside of football. Even though Lorig made it into the NFL, he is still working on post-football interests. Lorig graduated with a degree in public policy from Stanford and is using the offseason lockout to further his education. As a part-time student, Lorig is working towards a masters degree from the Stanford communications department. He was accepted into the masters program before he wad drafted by Tampa Bay. 

While Lorig reserves the majority of his day for working out and studying film for next football season, he also is a part-time student. He and a group of five other students have been working on getting a consulting report published that they wrote with guidance from the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research. Their report is regarding the promotion of more effective philanthropic giving through financial advisors. 

“I’m doing some stuff part-time. I feel like I’m in college again,” said Lorig. “It’s been great. I work out for three or four hours a day and then I can get some work done on that. It is a work in progress. For the most part my focus has been on the weight room, my body and cross-training, I think that will be most helpful next year. I’ll get [my masters] done when I can get done.

“I don’t like sitting idle too much.”

Given Lorig’s offseason spent on his masters and mastering his new position he certainly is not idle despite the NFL lockout.  

Check back tomorrow as Pewter Report will have part two of our interview with Lorig. There he discusses working out with teammates this offseason, the influence of Earnest Graham, his goals for next year and playing on special teams.

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